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Love is so many things

On the Bright Side

Valentine's Day, a day to celebrate love, is coming right up. And we all know what love is, don't we? Or do we?

It's hard to define, for one thing. Love is something easier to describe than define, actually, although poets have been trying to do it for years. Some of them have done a pretty good job of it, too. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...." thanks to Ms. Edna St. Vincent Millay, or Shakespeare's "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

For most of us, whether we're poets or not, whether we can define it or even describe it, we know when we're in it (usually) and we know that when we don't have it, we want it, we go looking for it, we pray for it to find us.

But, there are so many different kinds of love that it's hard to come up with just one definition. At the risk of sounding like Bubba describing shrimp to Forest, in the movie "Forest Gump", there is romantic love, and parental love, and sibling love, and friend love, and love for a group of people, love for a hobby, love for a pet, love of a book or a movie, or love of a job or a place or a time... and on and on we could go with naming different kinds of love.

I think one of the best descriptions of love, one that covers just about every form of love – especially the love between spouses and lovers, as well as the love for your fellow human beings – is a quote from 1st Corinthians. It goes like this (from the New International Version of the Holy Bible):

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not loved, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but have not loved, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not loved, I gain nothing.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

The passage ends with these fine words: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

That first paragraph reminds us that no matter what else we achieve, no matter how smart we are, no matter what acts of greatness or kindness we may perform, no matter what we do we are nothing if we do not have love in our hearts.

That second paragraph is as good a guide for marital love – or friendship love, for that matter – as I've ever heard. Perhaps we should all tape a copy of that on our refrigerators or our bathroom mirrors, just to be reminded daily of things we so often forget.

Just think how much easier and more beautiful and safer and rewarding life would be if we all remembered that love is kind and gentle, not jealous or devious, that love doesn't keep score.

That love is available to us even when we are acting ornery or being unlovable; that love will sometimes find us when we least expect it. That love, when we have it, should be cherished and guarded and should never be put in second place to anything, ever, for any reason.

That love is in the big things – like marriage and family and friendship – and it is also in the little things, like saying please and thank you simply because we respect someone else's feelings.

That love is something you can feel and share and you don't need anyone else's permission; that love is something you can accept and never worry that you'll be tired of it or so full of it that you can't accept more. That love is the one thing you can give away and never run out of; that love is the one thing that actually grows and multiplies whenever it is given away.

John Lennon, one of those poets able to sum up the power of love in five words, said it as simply and succinctly as anyone else when he wrote "all you need is love." Indeed.

Happy Valentine's Day to you all, and always remember that every day is the perfect day to celebrate love.

© 2024 Mel Makaw. Mel, local writer/photographer and author of On the Bright Side, a Collection of Columns (available locally at Tehachapi Arts Center and Healthy Hippie Trading Co.), welcomes your comments at [email protected]/.